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Ford's big data experiments: Can it transform the company?

7/01/2015 by Sharon Shahzad


Ford's big data and mobility experiments set the stage for positioning the automaker more as a software and systems outfit. Ford is a good example of how every company is now a technology company.

Ford CEO Mark Fields' keynote at CES 2015 shined the light on how the company is thinking beyond vehicles to being more of a transportation analytics outfit. In other words, Ford is a good example of how every company is becoming a tech company.

The challenge for Ford will be absorbing data from cars and people in various mobile experiments and then discovering what can be used to build a business around. Fields talked vehicle quality, insurance costs, car sharing, transportation analysis and solving societal problems.

"Our roadmap must not just include smarter cars, but smarter roads and smarter cities," said Fields.

Ford CEO Fields talks about the automaker's big data experiments. James Martin, CNET

The plan as outlined by Ford goes like this:

  1. Experiment in the near term with 25 efforts that tackle everything from car sharing, vehicle intelligence, driving patterns, parking apps and insurance. The inputs are data from consumers and volunteers. Ford is thinking beyond whiz-bang efforts such as robotic cars---although it has big plans there too---and sees data as its biggest asset. Ford is gunning for "an all-new model of transportation and mobility within the next 10 years and beyond."
  2. Targeted implementation in the mid-term. From that data, Ford plans to expand automation in vehicles and develop applications that can work across multiple transportation systems.
  3. Urban mobility leadership in the long term. Ford wants to lead in integrated transportation systems and bringing automated features to the masses. It's no surprise that Ford's experiments take place in India and China. The win for Ford is the emerging markets and middle class buying vehicles.

"This information is helping us understand how people move, and see patterns that most customers don't," said Fields. "Today's cars produce a massive amount of data, upwards of 25GB of information per hour."

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